Ben Harper, Boring Like A Drill, Sep 2020
The two musicians play with an evenness and interior calm that makes the music’s formal structure and changes in instrumentation flow naturally without apparent effort. They make it all seem inevitable, even as the outcomes remain unknown, with a transparency that makes their playing inseparable from the music. [...]
The inventive use of instrumentation adds depth and complexity, while the duet form of the piece gives clarity. Together, they manage to combine the bright and the plaintive into an indivisible whole. It feels like a piece that will continue to grow and change for the listener, even as a single recording.
Seth Colter Walls, The New York Times, Aug 2023
This year, the best spatial audio purchase I’ve made was an All That Dust download of Stockhausen’s “Kontakte” for piano, percussion and electronic sounds. That may not be as newsworthy as the latest buzzy technology, but neither is it as expensive.
The week I visited the Shed, tickets for the Reich show started at $46, for a concert that amounted to an hour-long playback session. But my "Kontakte" recording was something of a corrective: just 5 pounds ($6.37). With that binaural release and ones like it, you don't need to be hustled into hyped equipment from Apple. Anyone with solid over-ear headphones - as with the Sennheiser line that Muti used in Chicago - can experience this magic.
Tom Service, BBC Radio 3 New Music Show, Mar 2020
KONTAKTE radio spot
Together they unfurl Stockhausen's new worlds of contact – new in 1960 and still viscerally contemporary sixty years later – across electronics and the acoustic realm of percussion and piano, in new dimensions. This recording turns space into sound, and vice versa […] a landmark performance.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, Nov 2019
Album of the week
Percussionist Barton and pianist Rhys’s binaural recording adds another dimension to Stockhausen’s textures and reveals his musical thinking
[…] that vivid, spatial element of the work emerges with startling immediacy in this first binaural recording of the electro-acoustic version, with percussionist George Barton and pianist Siwan Rhys. Heard through headphones, their performance gives a tingling sense of the aural perspectives that played such an important role in Stockhausen’s musical thinking at that time, […]
it shows how the electronically generated timbres and live sounds come into “contact” in the score, and how the one can emerge from or merge with the other. High-frequency electronic tones seamlessly elide with crotales and sizzling cymbals, or mingle with the harmonics from a tam-tam, while low-frequency pulses can be matched with the lower registers of the piano. The textures change like the colours in a kaleidoscope […]
Barton and Rhys prove perfect guides to all these complexities; there may already be a number of recordings of this remarkable work, but theirs adds an extra dimension to it, both literally and metaphorically.
Simon Cummings, 5:4, Nov 2021
[...] the piece was a sublime example of music-making as an act of journeying, without a specific destination in mind. Echoes of Robert Louis Stevenson’s sentiment that “to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive”, and on the strength of this 80-minute sonic journey, it was impossible to disagree. [...]
This meta-ambient flexing was made more fascinating by the occasional realisation that Houben’s drones had shifted position; in practice, they were constantly on the move (in the same way that glaciers move), in the process setting up seemingly accidental episodes of diatonic lyricism and gorgeous sequences of far greater harmonic complexity, the latter of which, often containing soft shimmering or juddering pitches, created the illusion of prolonging the reverberation from Barton’s gongs and tam-tams.
Our perception of time was entirely distorted: sped up during the 80 minutes of music, which went by surprisingly quickly, but then twisted the other way, slowed to a crawl, during the short silence following the end of the piece, which felt like it went on forever.
Even though the piece didn’t so much arrive as “stop travelling”, i could have happily kept going in its company for a whole lot longer.
Hugh Morris, Tempo New Music Quarterly 75(296), Apr 2021
good day good day bad day bad day review
good day commands and deserves repeat listens [...] its runic character is simply engrossing. At the centre of this feeling are GBSR, whose characters are built lovingly into the score. They seem to cherish the score’s intimacy, making it a really heartfelt expression of their sensitivities […]
Whether as an accompaniment to, a reflection on, or a gentle critique of the everyday, good day stands as a tenderly created and thoughtfully realised gem.
Ben Harper, Boring Like A Drill, Jul 2022
The GBSR Duo and violinist Mira Benjamin play these pieces with an intensity of focus that gives weight to the slightest gestures, with each new moment compounding what has preceded it.
In my review of the studio recordings, I said that “that delicacy never lapses into preciousness, as Monk Feldman keeps the balance of sound and silence in constant tension, always holding energy in reserve and only occasionally letting short, lyrical flourishes burst forth.” Observing as well as listening, it becomes clear just how much detail goes into these pieces, simply by watching the way Barton used different techniques on the vibraphone to produce subtle variations in attack and decay. Rhys, meanwhile, evoked similar shadings from an instrument which is comparably more clear-cut and remote.
In solo, duet or trio form, each piece makes the most artful use of simple language, as rightly demonstrated in the articulate sureness of Benjamin’s phrasing, echoed by each musician. Most tellingly, the pieces varied in length from five minutes to half an hour, yet each one established an equal prominence, creating its own sense of scale.
In the intimate space of the church, with a small audience of faithful and new converts, Monk Feldman’s music continued its slow journey to assert its importance.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, May 2023
The strings of the 12 Ensemble and the percussion and piano duo of George Barton and Siwan Rhys make natural collaborators, for both regularly explore corners of contemporary music that other groups tend to overlook. [...]
[Laurence] Osborn describes his piece TOMB! as recognising “the necrophiliac side of heritage and our morbid obsession with dead things”. In this case the “dead things” are traditional musical forms like fugue, jig and passacaglia, which flit in and out of the 20-minute movement like apparitions, only occasionally assuming recognisable forms. The effect is intriguing, sometimes unnerving, but always engaging, and full of textures that are never quite as straightforward as they seem. [...]
[of Budd/Eno's The Plateaux of Mirror] Barton had rescored what began as a series of 10 of Budd’s semi-improvised piano solos, to which Eno had added sonic “environments”, carefully preserving the piano solos but using the strings and percussion to recreate the studio effects of the original. It was a beautifully imaginative reworking, done with great tact and refinement.
Ian Parsons, PBS Radio Australia The Sound Barrier, Jul 2022
Over its long duration, around 67 minutes, the music passes through many layers of texture and colour as the trio of organ, piano, and percussion navigates a space where the resonance and timbres of the notes, their relationships with each other, the landscapes they evoke, move almost imperceptibly around and within one another.
It leaves the music, and us, in a state of unrelenting flux, as if we have visited a reality removed from the one that we thought was ours and entered another with the sort of wonder and fascination that leaves us thinking that maybe this is the truer place to move and to be.
All of this is achieved through the incredible rapport built up between the composer and her two co-performers, the GBSR Duo, who know exactly when and how to project each of their own voices into the fore and how to both respect and utilise the degrees of freedom with which the score equips them. It is this shifting balance - shifting so slowly and yet so constantly as to almost imply a permanent imbalance - between each of them that ultimately gives the piece its overall feeling of wholeness, even amongst its diversities of sound spaces and sound worlds.
It is an extraodinary experience to sit through this remarkable piece leaving, as it does, the impression that you have eavesdropped into a cosmos, both external and internal at once, every bit as fascinating and expansive, and beyond, as the images that NASA is just now discovering through its new James Webb telescope.
Marc Medwin, dusted magazine, Dec 2020
The musicianship is impeccable, and it is a testament as much to percussionist George Barton and pianist Siwan Rhys’ subtle virtuosity as to Leith’s investment in same that this fragmentarily cinematic piece works as well as it does. Listen to how beautifully, how seamlessly and sensitively, percussion and orchestral samples merge at the section beginning around 18:06, bringing that tune-up to a whole other level with a crystalline halo of bell and upper-frequency buzz. Rhys often channels the filigreed instincts guiding 1940s Messiaen piano music, and there’s no sound that Barton executes with anything less than delicacy; reference his intricately simple marimba at 26:30 or whatever those shimmering percussives might be, fading in at 33:37 and dominating the next two minutes.
Nick Ostrum, The Squid's Ear, Feb 2022
The melodies tumble forward but seem secondary to the slowly welling structure, the delicacy of each note and phrase that many composers today explore but into which Monk Feldman seems to have some uniquely deep insight. [...]
These are powerfully understated musicians. Barton and Rhys [...] imbue the pieces with an ambivalent balance between disconcertion and brightness and, as the album title hints, an understated versatility and poeticism that escapes many similar types of music and is overdone in many others. Introspective, incremental, and absolutely beautiful.
Igor Toronyi-Lalic, The Spectator, Oct 2022
Leith never failed to dangle down something sparkly when needed: refreshing little eddies of sound from steel drums or broken bottles, exquisitely conjured up by George Barton.
Liam Cagney, Gramophone, Oct 2021
Barbara Monk Feldman is little represented on disc, so this is a very welcome release. On cursory listening, Monk Feldman’s music is a satellite of the music of her deceased husband (Morton); the stylistic inheritance is unmistakable. But once you get past this, Monk Feldman’s distinctive qualities can be appreciated. [...]
This is contemplative music. Very little happens other than drawn-out violin notes, piano chords left to resonate and slowly decay, an occasional swelling marimba trill. At times it feels like music denuded absolutely of tangible features: we are listening to what’s left over when habitual babble is utterly wiped away. And what is left over? Deep emotional states: not so much the titular waterscape itself as how you feel before the rippling tidal surface and the wind on your face.
Tom Lincoln, Outline, May 2023
Mirrors was an expertly programmed and performed festival concert, demonstrating the skill and versatility of two of the UK classical music scene’s most impressive young collectives. [...]
The second half of the evening was made up of an arrangement (by GBSR’s percussionist, George Barton) of Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s Ambient 2: ‘Plateaux of Mirror’. This was deftly done and a thoroughly rewarding experience to drift in and out of, as was Eno’s intention. The arrangement and the relaxed, contemplative performance succeeded magnificently on their own terms.
Even so, it was the music of the first half of the concert - and in particular the world premiere of Laurence Osborn’s brilliant TOMB! - that will stay with me longer [...] a piece that, in the course of twenty minutes, careered though musical history like a drunken zombie. A particular highlight of the piece was the astounding percussion, dextrously performed by Barton.
John Eyles, All About Jazz, Jul 2021
[…] the compositions seem well-selected to fit with the musicians […] On each track, the quiet restraint of Monk Feldman's music is conveyed sympathetically by the two; it feels as if they have totally understood the composer's intentions […]
The Barton-Benjamin-Rhys trio proves just as suited to Monk Feldman as before. Sounding in touch with each other's instincts, they give a performance that will be hard to better. Verses is highly recommended for those who are already Monk Feldman aficionados or those who wish to discover her music.
Kate Molleson, BBC Radio 3 New Music Show, Mar 2020
good day good day bad day bad day radio spot
Bewitching [...] I've listened to [good day good day bad day bad day] an awful lot since it arrived in my inbox and I am enchanted afresh every single time.
Pamela Margles, The Whole Note, Sep 2021
New discs from two Canadian composers – Linda Catlin Smith and Barbara Monk Feldman – and both are standouts. They are the latest releases in the invaluable Canadian Composers Series from Another Timbre. As we’ve come to expect from this innovative British label, the sound is stellar and the performances, by some of Britain’s top contemporary music specialists, are consistently terrific. [...]
Monk Feldman’s realm extends from the enchanted vistas of Duo for Piano and Percussion and the eerie mists of Verses for Vibraphone to the uplifting choralelike contours of Clear Edge for solo piano.
The I And Thou, from 1988, is dedicated to Monk Feldman’s teacher and husband, Morton Feldman, who had died the previous year. Here she weaves a fabric of luminous stillness. Yet beneath the shimmering surface an uneasy presence stirs, unarticulated but palpable, especially with pianist Siwan Rhys’ sensitivity to the mood of longing that suffuses this moving work. [...]
The Northern Shore [...] covers a vast expressive territory, from precisely shaped and positioned tones to an unexpectedly effulgent passage of delicate piano chords marked “freely”. The responsiveness of percussionist George Barton and pianist Rhys is beautifully matched by the imaginative palette of colours from Canadian violinist Mira Benjamin (a member of Apartment House).
Caroline Potter, Tempo New Music Quarterly 76(299), Jan 2022
Oliver Leith Me Hollywood review
[of good day good day bad day bad day]
This extraordinary eight-movement work, mostly very slow and with each movement circling around innocuous material, is a study in musical haunting. The brushing metallic resonance of the waterphone, a prominent sound in the last movement, is more likely than any other instrument to get lodged in your ear, but the haunting goes far beyond that. Sometimes in good day... [...] the performers are joined by recorded sound in a collision of found objects with newly created music, and the sum is far greater than the individual parts.
Spencer Pate, The Light of Lost Words, Jun 2021
[…] This dialectic between abstraction and figuration, imagination and reality, functions also as an apt metonymy for the music of Monk Feldman, as played superbly by the GBSR Duo [...]
Throughout the album, Rhys’ and Barton’s touch and timing are remarkable, weighting each chime of piano and flutter of vibraphone with precision and care, and Benjamin’s embellishments convey a vivid sense of volume and space. […]
Verses [is] rigorous and exacting in choice and arrangement of materials, but also inquisitive and inviting, unhurried, uncluttered, and unpretentious. Monk Feldman’s music places a finger on the pulse of the inscapes and instresses of the natural world; it translates subjective truth into objective beauty. [...]
Verses […] makes it clear that Barbara Monk Feldman is equally as gifted as her more famous contemporaries, and I can only hope that others find her music as revelatory and healing and necessary as I do.
Kate Molleson, BBC Radio 3 New Music Show, May 2021
Verses radio spot
This is music that flirts with silence, but which I find anything but fragile - there's an intensity, a vehement and vibrant detail to this quietness.
GBSR shine light into the majestic fine detail and mysterious time-dilation that happens in the music of Barbara Monk Feldman, Search this album out.
John Eyles, All About Jazz, Oct 2020
It is difficult to know who deserves the greater praise for good day good day bad day bad day, the composer or the performers [...] This recording [...] features Barton on percussion and Rhys on piano and electric keyboard, the empathy between the two being tangible as they complement one another perfectly throughout. Leith wrote the piece with Barton and Rhys in mind [...] they sound ideally suited to it and vice versa. Leith and GBSR deserve equal credit for the success of this piece, which indicates that we shall be hearing far more from all three of them in years to come.
Ben Harper, Boring Like A Drill, Jun 2021
Verses is a collection of works for one, two and three musicians, sharing an intimacy of scale and a delicacy of touch. In the opening Duo for Piano and Percussion, the former is shadowed almost imperceptibly by the latter, with chimes and mallet instruments acting as a treatment of the piano, altering the colouration and adding faint echoes to disturb the background. That delicacy never lapses into preciousness, as Monk Feldman keeps the balance of sound and silence in constant tension, always holding energy in reserve and only occasionally letting short, lyrical flourishes burst forth. […]
The GBSR Duo […] are joined by violinist Mira Benjamin on the longer The Northern Shore and it’s here that they truly excel in guiding the ear from one instrument to the next as the music passes through the scenery with unhurried but determined pace.
Gillian Moore, BBC Radio 3 Record Review, Sep 2021
Verses radio spot
Clear Edge is a luminous solo piano work with a gorgeous piano sound, beautifully recorded at Goldsmiths College by Siwan Rhys. Barbara Monk Feldman talks a lot about colour and you hear those shifting colours in this work, changing densities of chords, and landings on great big open intervals. It has a stop-start quality as sound objects are juxtaposed and placed in silence. That sort of deceptively tentative, unsure-of-itself quality gives it a beautiful vulnerability which I just find so appealing.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, Oct 2020
Barton and Rhys took on the formidable technical challenges of Arne Gieshoff’s Spillikins, elusive and quicksilver to start, becoming sparser and becalmed as it went on.
Ian Parsons, PBS Radio Australia The Sound Barrier, Oct 2019
George and Siwan's work in integrating their own acoustic sounds with those of electronic music tape is sensational, to the extent where their resonance as part of a single, though multi-layered, whole is astonishing. It is a demanding work because of the precision it requires of the soloists – not only because of their need to synchronise with the tape, but also because of their need to control the timbres and dynamics of their own playing so deftly.
These two incredible soloists meet the challenges of this sensational work with relish and vigour. They find their way through its perpetually shifting sounds and tensions, its constantly changing moments of sound shapes and colours, in a way that breathes the sort of life and energy into this work that really demands exactly this. It is not a piece that builds to a single climax, or follows a straight trajectory. It is about movement, about things shifting and changing one another. To make it work, the artists have to match the tape's whirlpool of living sound, to marry themselves to its mercurial energy. When you immerse yourself into the sound of this new recording, you too are swept up in that energy.
Eyal Hareuveni, The Free Jazz Collective, Sep 2021
The five works radiate Monk Feldman’s “sense of the musical imagery hovering in one place, as it were, attended by a fluidity in the slow transitioning of the harmonic color”. GBSR Duo’s performance captures beautifully this kind of elusive sense of imagery. Rhys’ piano melts gently into the resonant, floating sounds of Barton’s vibes and vice versa. Their performance has a subtle, venerable intimacy, constantly flirts with silence and flows naturally with meditative and almost transparent ripples. The two extended pieces - “The I and Thou” (1988) for solo piano and “The Northern Shore” (1997), after the Gaspé peninsula in eastern Québec where the St. Lawrence river meets the Atlantic ocean, a place that Monk Feldman visits every summer, for the GBSR Duo with violinist Benjamin - demonstrate best the inspiring, poetic qualities of Monk Feldman.
GBSR Duo’s performance of Monk Feldman’s music offers a rare sense of quiet, healing catharsis, music that stretches into timeless distances. It gently molds a profound but unpretentious spiritual listening experience, with highly nuanced colors and a remarkable balance between sound, silence and space.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, Oct 2020
Each of [good day...'s] eight movements focuses on a single musical idea, some deliberately commonplace, others that are insidiously repetitive. There are moments of unexpected grandeur alongside sheer banality, yet somehow the mixture is curiously addictive.
Keith Prosk, Harmonic Series, Jul 2021
For all its sparsity there is little silence. The long reverberating decay of bell and piano and vibraphone a field of gradient brightness and saturation, undulating into the unsounding, fading but rarely fully, another sounding beginning as the previous melody draws near inaudibility. The many-hued melodies capacitated by the broad tonalities of their many bars and keys and the melodies themselves of seemingly different saturations, viscous in time, slow and slower and sometimes so slow they are unmelodies. Dissolved structure. Pure color. As abstract visuals do, each sound invites a detailed listen to its individual complexities through time and its mutable relationships to others in space. […] I’m surely biased by the context, but the way in which the pieces arrange silence, sound, and space, tone, melody, and color evokes painterly decisions as much as musical ones.
Michele Palozzo, Esoteros, Mar 2021
It is once again the young George Barton and Siwan Rhys (now GBSR Duo) who give body to Monk Feldman’s distinct emotional microcosm: within it the predominance belongs to melodic percussions, meaning the round and resonant timbres of piano and vibraphone, intended as palettes of pure colors to be mixed or overlaid with large and patient fields; only in total devotion to the sound gesture, in fact, can the inner view approximate the spontaneous balance of the external elements, “mute” actors of a reality that offers itself to human perception without intrinsic meanings, almost as if it were completely unintended. [...]
What remains is to hope, starting from this fascinating portrait album, that Barbara Monk Feldman’s music will spread and make its way in the repertoire of contemporary performers and, consequently, in the record productions of other prestigious labels.
Ben Harper, Boring Like A Drill, Apr 2022
What a strange piece! […] a collaboration with the GBSR Duo that’s built on the premise of suspense, in which the processes of time are suspended even as you are aware of time’s passing. […]
Houben maintains a steady drone throughout, too soft but too rigid for the listener to believe that it can stay the same. Barton and Rhys add brief, isolated interventions that provoke but never disrupt the stasis, leaving the listener perpetually waiting for a change that may never come. It’s unexpectedly dramatic, even ominous, if you allow it to be. You wonder, between the three of them, when they will allow the impasse to break, either change or drop away, or whether they can keep up the suspension of the faintest of sounds indefinitely.
Liam Cagney, Gramophone, Oct 2021
Barbara Monk Feldman is little represented on disc, so this is a very welcome release. On cursory listening, Monk Feldman’s music is a satellite of the music of her deceased husband (Morton); the stylistic inheritance is unmistakable. But once you get past this, Monk Feldman’s distinctive qualities can be appreciated.
The Northern Shore [...] evokes that natural image through an extremely limited palette and careful use of registral contrast. This is contemplative music. Very little happens other than drawn-out violin notes, piano chords left to resonate and slowly decay, an occasional swelling marimba trill. At times it feels like music denuded absolutely of tangible features: we are listening to what’s left over when habitual babble is utterly wiped away. And what is left over? Deep emotional states: not so much the titular waterscape itself as how you feel before the rippling tidal surface and the wind on your face.
Duo for piano and percussion opens the album in the same vein: slow tempo, quiet dynamic, sparse texture, long resonant decays. Monk Feldman’s large-scale harmonic trajectories are fascinating here; the music always orbits and draws away from tonal centres, a relatively orthodox chord being followed by a dissonance whose tension resembles more a timbre than a harmony, which in turn pivots into some new source of stability.
The I and Thou for solo piano, with the reverb pedal depressed throughout, alternates fast broken-chord figures with slow single notes and dyads like flecks of paint on a white canvas. Just when you feel lulled into a definite tonal area, Monk Feldman introduces a chromatic element, keeping your ear awake.
Roger Batty, Musique Machine, apr 2022
over its lengthy runtime [together on the way] keeps you locked inside its taut-yet-bleak grip.
The piece is presented here as a single sixty-seven-minute track - so this and the taut yet eventful flow of the track means this is very much a work that has to be heard in a single setting.
As with many of Another Timbre's releases was captured by the label's owner Simon Reynell – who spent much of his life as a BBC sound recordist – so there is wonderful depth and clarity to the recording.
The piece has a fairly circular quality to it, so technically you could play it on a loop. Yes, there is a structure to the whole thing, at points, we do get subtle moments of development occurring. But largely it has a very floating and stark quality, with the only real constant being a wavering sustained organ note. Around this, the three-piece places grim flirts of piano, be it doomy hits, or high darts; brooding-to-slicing percussion detail; or sudden organ note moves. The tension throughout really is tangible, and this is certainly not a piece you could drift off in – due of course to the constant simmering tautness, and sparse darting, at points jarring flow of elements. [...]
together on the way is very much a work for a quiet room, and a mind ready for a long dwell in taut and angular glumness. Certainly, a great example of sonic reserve, and controlled playing – and I’d imagine when this was performed live, there would have been a very tangible air of both apprehension and tense unease.
Christian Carey, Sequenza 21, Mar 2022
The title work, for solo vibraphone, uses microphrases, short splashes of arpeggios with the pedal down that are followed by rests. Throughout the piece these expand and contract, thicken to wide-spaced chords and reduce to intervals, creating a miniature full of information and surprises. […]
The recording’s centerpiece, The Northern Shore (1997) is inspired by a place where Monk Feldman, a Canadian, goes to every summer in Quebec. Like a number of the composer’s pieces, nature as a touchstone, rather than as a programme, serves as a wellspring of inspiration. There is something of a ritualistic quality to the way that each player interprets the same intervals and then passes them off to the next, in a kind of call and response. […]
Like much of her work, the use of triads that never quite resolve provides an achingly beautiful ambience. GBSR Duo – percussionist George Barton and pianist Siwan Rhys – joined by violinist Mira Benjamin, are sympathetic and compelling interpreters of the music.
James Ellis, Get the Chance, Apr 2022
By far one of the quietly intense concert experiences I’ve ever been too, the Queen Elizabeth Hall was awash in stillness […]
One part quite demanding, I also found it rather zen, a well needed mediation after a non-stop few days. Nature comes to mind and outer space, the organ here only ever a drone to the interplay of piano and percussion. […]
Amazing how the organ could sound like train whistles or an an earthquake when the stops are teased. Wales’ own Siwan Rhys played oh so softly on the piano, with some Henry Cowell like string strums and stimulating chords. George Barton was another fine addition on percussion, an attractive array of gongs, temples bowls amongst other delights. Eva-Maria Houben had some deeply impressive concentration levels to keep the organ on the straight path in its never ending backing ambience.
David Grundy, Streams of Expression
On stage, Houben was flanked by the two members of the GBSR Duo, Siwan Rhys's piano gently prepared with horsehair, but more often played in a series of unadorned notes, melody reduced to its simplest means--one note, two notes, a few notes that almost, but don't quite, build up a scale or an octave transposition--or gently struck dissonances, reverberating in the sustain pedal and a finger-dampened string; George Barton's huge array of percussion played as a series of barely-audible taps, synchronised and overlapping piano and percussion entries over a single organ chord, sustained over the course of the entire work, not so much as a "drone" as a near-transparent texture, wheezing, breathing, enormous yet transparent, what Houben calls a "shelter" or a kind of sounding silence in which the players can each occupy their separate spaces, spread out on the stage
At one point the breathing of someone in the row above me was louder than the music coming from the stage, but there was almost no "actual" silence: a veil, a representation, a mediation. Somewhere in all of this a meditation on decay, on the anxieties of environment as not simply a "natural" space but a contested terrain of despoliation and the imminent ending of life--Houben's programme notes nodding to the anthropocene--or the histories closer to home, the current conflicts and conjunctures that seep into a place that doesn't, as the cliche goes, close itself off from them in a cocoon, but lets them enter and disappear. This is a historical music, a music maybe at the end of something, with the melancholy that implies, but also with the possibility of remaking and rethinking ("when the chord is unfolded, it sounds for a while, then the process of deconstruction begins"...)--spread out, as the performers were on stage, over large distance, chasms, yet with a kind of intimacy, a human scale, the possibilities of bodies in space, the possibilities of hearing as a mode of relation: a music that models eternity or infinity, as per Cage's ASLSP, its centuries-long sounding organ, yet which is in itself concerned with the material of decay, with a focused materialism. After an hour or so--just under or just over--the work ends, signalled with uncharacteristic drama or force by an inexorable, regular set of drum taps, one after the other, over and over: I didn't count exactly, but perhaps as many as fifteen times, a regular, barely reverberating stroke, flatly thudding, inexorably placed. A host of associations invoked: Beethoven's fate, Wagner's forge, yet the taps here also remove drama, ostentation, military forthrightness: and while those connotations can never render this a gesture "purely" formal or abstract, the context of the work as a whole, the manner of its delivery, lend this conclusion a non-forced materiality, at once transparent clarity and a refusal to be reductively read, rendered symbol.
Caroline Potter, I care if you listen, Dec 2019
GBSR Duo Play Feldman Tributes and New British Music in London
Barbara Monk Feldman was represented with her Duo […] with both Barton and Rhys completely inhabiting the sound world and exhibiting ideal precision. […] so smol by CHAINES […] was funky and skewed, rarely allowing the listener to settle into one rhythm […] It was captivating.
Oliver Sellwood’s Alias States […] turned into a great vehicle for showing off the virtuosity of the GBSR duo.
The most striking of the new works was Nicholas Moroz’s Intralatent, recently premiered at Huddersfield. As Rhys prepared the piano, placing objects on the strings, recorded sound started; had the piece begun? Barton’s virtuoso bongo entrance marked another possible opening of a piece that was a real celebration of sonority. The piano preparation brought out unsuspected harmonics, enhanced by an electronic halo, and the confrontation between the human, earthy world of the bongos and the distorted, ethereal piano was scintillating. […] Striking, stroking, and beating metal, clasping and unclasping the noise tree, Barton engaged fully with this most tactile of pieces. Moroz’s sheer love of sound was the abiding memory of the piece.
In the GBSR Duo, this [piano and percussion] combination has persuasive champions who are already commissioning exciting new repertoire.
textura, Aug 2021
The changing instrument configurations add to the recording's appeal, with each piece presenting a different arrangement than the one preceding it. The austerity of the presentation gives it the compressed meaningfulness of poetry and encourages an introspective, meditative response in the listener. With sounds reduced to the essential, every musical gesture assumes heightened meaning, which in turn makes the material all the more engrossing, however spare it is. Aptly put by Barton and Rhys, “This music has a meditative, unpretentious, unassuming aspect to it, but it also hints at a kind of heroic internal quest: always quieter, always purer, always less affected, as if stripping away the layers of the sounds themselves.” That Monk Feldman has an interest in Noh Theatre (referenced in an interview with her conducted by GBSR Duo) comes as no surprise.
Despite the differences between the five pieces, certain aspects are common to all, including pacing so slow it makes the sounds seem as if they're hovering or suspended in space. Rhys and Barton demonstrate remarkable sensitivity to dynamics and space in their rendering of 1988's Duo for Piano and Percussion, with his vibraphone and her piano generating a shimmering tapestry. Sprinkles of tones appear like the gentle utterances of wind chimes as faint bell accents appear ‘behind' the primary instruments. In this and other pieces, sustain is integral to the character of the soundworld created when piano and vibraphone lend themselves so naturally to tinting with subtle colour the spaces between the notes.
Barton's by himself for 1994's Verses for Vibraphone, but he generates a compelling panorama for its five-minute performance, with sounds again positioning themselves at distinct locations. Rhys performs solo too, in her case The I and Thou (1988) at the album's centre and Clear Edge (1993) at its end. While the pensive former advances at a glacial pace conducive to contemplation, the latter caps the release with a bright, ruminative reverie. In pushing past thirty minutes and converting the duo to a trio, The Northern Shore (1997) understandably dominates, even if its tone is consistent with the overall character of the release. Minimal violin utterances appear softly alongside piano and percussion, the three elements carefully intertwined in Monk Feldman's arrangement. The title refers to a place she visits every summer in eastern Quebec where the St. Lawrence River meets the Atlantic Ocean, and certainly the writing suggests the elemental timelessness of interactions between water, wind, and air. While the presentation is largely peaceful, the piece isn't lacking for incident, with the music subtly ebbing and flowing as it wends its deliberate way.
Paul Conway, Musical Opinion, Oct 2019
One of this festival’s most surprising and memorable concerts […] Making imaginative use of its prudently selected resources, Soliton made a powerful impact, thanks in part to the clarity of the composer’s intentions but also due to committed advocacy from the two players. […]
Boudica, for percussion and piano by Gregory Rose […] performed at white heat and with the greatest vehemence […] was delivered with the utmost virtuosity and scrupulous fidelity to the score by both performers. […]
In sum, this very enjoyable and wide-ranging collection of pieces emphasised the sheer range of sounds open to the featured instrumental forces. All seven works were superbly played by the GBSR Duo.
David Truslove, Wales Arts Review, Aug 2019
The first of two contrasting concerts I heard on Day Five was a ‘tasting menu’ for piano and percussion […] each work’s individuality made a singular impact such was the variety of conception and material. […] It was with Gregory Rose’s Boudica (also being premiered) that Barton showed his percussion playing prowess in a ‘bells and whistles’ work […] A veritable battery of percussion was pressed into service for this strenuous workout, arresting to hear and watch in equal measure. […] Joe Duddell’s scintillating Parallel Lines […] sustained my attention with its ten-minute assault course for the tireless Barton and Rhys.
New Dots review, Jun 2014
Using just two performers – percussionist George Barton and pianist Siwan Rhys – presented the young composers with an interesting array of resources, and a very accomplished pair of musicians, with which to create new sounds […] a great insight into the potential for anything to be considered percussion, and what great opportunities this presents to composers.